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Friday, January 8, 2010

Rational Social Media

2009 was certainly the year social media took hold as a significant tool for marketers, and with the start of a new year, many “experts” are again trumpeting the merits of social media and forecasting the demise of traditional media and traditional public relations.

It seems everyone is talking about social media and discussing what services and tools to use, how to use them, why you should use them, etc. In fact, if you listened to all the advice out there, you would probably think that no matter who you are, whether an individual wanting to build a personal brand, or a large multinational corporation intent on communicating with customers, you should be using social media.

Fortunately, despite the fervor over social media, some sanity is beginning to show with rational thought – is social media really the most appropriate or best course of action? B2B Magazine for example, lists various reasons “When To Avoid Social Media.”

At 3Point, as excited as we are by the ongoing evolution of media and the availability of the many new channels of communications, we take the stance that social media is but one of the many tools available to engage, educate, empower and enrapture audiences. Marketers have always diligently planned advertising and public relations campaigns, picking the media in which to best present the latest and greatest to homemakers, Moms or avid golfers. This has not changed in the age of social media. The same due diligence is required to ensure a social media campaign meets the same criteria.

It is important not to lose sight of what is really important – are the communications activities achieving meaningful business objectives such as increasing sales and enhancing shareholder value. Just ad hoc Tweeting of opinion or establishing a generic corporate Facebook page will likely fail to achieve a meaningful response.

Here are some questions that need to be asked before any social media is applied:
· Who are we hoping to connect with?
· Is social media the best way to reach this audience?
· What kind of information is interesting to them?
· What other marketing and communications activities are planned and how does social
media integrate with them?
· What will be different in 3, 6, 12 months as a result of our social media efforts?
· What might go wrong? What expectations might people have of us?

With rational planning and measureable objectives in place, social media can be truly effective. Without, it can cause a company to waste time and resources, or worse still, actually cause harm to the company. Social media certainly can be beneficial; the real question is to what degree should it be deployed in the support of your other marketing efforts.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Using Social Media as a Cover

It is impressive to me that the realm of social media and social networks has moved from lighthearted and trendy to a mainstream research at leading educational institutions in such a short period of time. Then again, college campuses are the perfect seedbed for social media -- demographically, intellectually and socially. But the real impetus for research in a capitalist world is in trying to tame this amorphous beast and turn it into a cash generator. Enter business school research...

Research by Mikolaj Jan Piskorski, an associate professor in the Strategy unit at Harvard Business School begins to bring some definition to Social Media that is useful to understand, and I'm going to spend a couple of blogs on this just to keep it in digestible chunks.

Piskorski's research shows how we use social media, which tools we prefer and why. It also shines some new light on an "old" standby.

Piskorski says "Online social networks are most useful when they address real failures in the operation of offline network." In other words, social media lets us do things online that we can't do as easily offline: keeping up with friends, asking for help or references, making information about yourself available passively so that a recruiter might be looking to fill a position with someone of your experience -- even if you are not overtly looking for a job.

But the research is even more revealing. Do you know the killer app of social networks?

Tah dah....Pictures!

That's right. Piskorski's research shows that 70% of all actions are related to viewing pictures or viewing other people's profiles. Now, this part gets down to some very basic human activities, but it is useful for marketers to know: According to the research, "The biggest usage categories are men looking at women they don't know, followed by men looking at women they do know. Women look at other women they know. Overall, women receive two-thirds of all page views!"

This was a very big surprise to Piskorski. "A lot of guys in relationships are looking at women they don't know," he said. "It's an easy way to see if anyone might be a better match."

Passively allowing headhunters to find us. Quietly looking for a better relationship... These are examples of how people use social media and social networks as a "cover."

But what happens if a company decides to apply the same logic?